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Bible Commentaries

Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible
Romans 4

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-20

Romans 4:1-3. What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.

He stands as the great Father of believers, and this is the charter given to him, and given to all believers in him. “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness.”

Romans 4:4. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.

That is to say, to him who hopes to be saved by his works, to whom salvation is of merit. He has worked for the reward. He has earned it. Do not talk about grace in that case.

Romans 4:5. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.

This is the man who does not go upon the line of works — who does not rest in his works at all, or bring them as a price to God. “His faith is counted for righteousness.” It is a very wonderful thing that faith should stand in the stead of righteousness, and should make righteous all those that believe in God by Jesus Christ.

Romans 4:6-8. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works. Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.

Instead of being a worker, this man had been an offender — a sinner. God did not impute it to him. He was a believer, and God imputed righteousness to him on account of his faith, and did not impute sin to him. Then comes a very important inquiry.

Romans 4:9. Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also?

Is circumcision so necessary that a man is justified by faith after he is circumcised, and could not be so justified if he were an uncircumcised man?

Romans 4:9-10. For we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.

How was it then reckoned? When he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Look back to the history. See in what condition Abraham was when faith was reckoned to him for righteousness. Was it when he was in circumcision or in uncircumcision? The answer is: —

Romans 4:10-11. Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised:

But the sign is to follow the thing signified. He is, first of all, justified by his faith, and then afterwards he receives the token of the covenant.

Romans 4:11. That he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised: that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:

It is a very remarkable fact. A great many readers of the Book of Genesis would never have noticed it if the Holy Ghost had not called attention to the fact that father Abraham was justified by his faith before he was circumcised; and this is the reason of it — that he might be the father of all believers, whether they be circumcised or uncircumcised. “That righteousness might be imputed to them also.”

Romans 4:12-13. And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised. For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.

For the law was not even given when that covenant promise was made. The law was 400 years afterwards. The covenant of grace was the oldest covenant of all, and it shall stand fast, whatever shall happen.

Romans 4:14. For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect:

If you are upon that tack of salvation by the law, then what have you to do with faith? And what have you to do with promise, and what have yea to do with Christ? You are on a different line altogether.

Romans 4:15. Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.

That is plain enough. You cannot break a law if there is not any; and thus, through our sinfulness, the law becomes a cause of sin, and never does it become the cause of justification.

Romans 4:16. Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace:

Salvation is by faith alone, that it may be seen to be of the free favor of God, that we may not look to merit or look to human strength, but may look away to the abounding mercy of God in Christ Jesus.

Romans 4:16-17. To the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all.

What a God we trust in — a God who quickeneth the dead. We have no faith unless we believe in such a God as this. We shall need such a God in order to bring us safely to his right hand at last.

Romans 4:18-20. Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb; He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God:

Men seem to think that only workers can give glory to God; but there is more glory given to God by one drachma of faith than by a ton of works. After all, works usually generate conceit and pride in us. But faith lays itself low before its God, and gives to him all the glory. God is never more glorified than he is by the believing confidence of his people when difficulties seem to come in the way. He was “strong in faith, giving glory to God.”


Verses 1-21

Romans 4:1-8. What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.

There is a special blessedness, therefore, which comes to those who, by faith, are under the dispensation of grace. It came to Abraham, and it came to David; yet both Abraham and David were circumcised men belonging to a special race. So the question naturally arises, —

Romans 4:9-12. Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: and the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.

The historical argument is a very forcible one. The blessing was not given to Abraham as a circumcised man, but as a believing man; and hence it comes also to all of us who believe. What a mercy it is that there is, in this sense, no distinction between Jew and Gentile now! I hate that plan of reading the Scriptures in which we are told, when we lay hold of a gracious promise, “Oh, that is for the Jews.” “Then I also am a Jew, for it is given to me.” Every promise of God’s Word belongeth to all those who have the faith to grasp it. We who have faith, are all in the covenant, and are thus the children of faithful Abraham; so be not afraid, ye who are the true seed, to take every blessing that belongs to your father Abraham and to all the seed.

Romans 4:13-14. For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect:

But that would also make void circumcision and the whole of the ancient covenant, seeing that the blessing was given to a man whom God had chosen before his circumcision, and before the ceremonial law had been promulgated.

Romans 4:15-17. Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression. Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all, (as it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,)

Not a father of one select race of people only, but a father of all who, in any land, and speaking any language, are believers in the glorious Jehovah, who is the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob.

Romans 4:17. Before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.

Abraham was a believer in the God of resurrection, expecting to see Isaac raised up from the dead if he did actually offer him as a sacrifice to God. He was a believer in things that were not yet apparent to him, looking forward to them, and expecting to see them in due time; believing in them because he believed in God, who “calleth those things which be not as though they were.”

Romans 4:18-21. Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb: he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.

This exposition consisted of readings from Romans 3:19-31; and Romans 4:1-21.


Verses 1-25

Romans 4:1. What shall we say then that Abraham our father as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?

What blessings did really come to Abraham, the father of the faithful? What is the nature of that covenant of grace which God made with him?

Romans 4:2. For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.

Certainly, before God, Abraham neither gloried nor yet was justified by his works.

Romans 4:3. For what saith the scripture?

That is the question for us always to ask, “What saith the Scripture?”

Romans 4:3. Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.

There is no doubt about that point, for in Genesis 15:6 we read, “He believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”

Romans 4:4. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.

He gets what he earns, what he deserves to have, what he receives is “not reckoned of grace, but of debt.”

Romans 4:5-8. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.

So then it seems that the blessings of salvation come to men through faith, and not through their own efforts,-not as the reward of merit, but as the simple gift of God’s grace.

Romans 4:9. Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also?

Is this blessing entailed upon the natural seed of Abraham alone, or is it for others besides the Jews?

Romans 4:9-10. For we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.

If you turn again to Genesis 15:6, and then to 17:10, you will find that Abraham was justified by faith before the rite of circumcision was instituted. The blessing came to him “not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.”

Romans 4:11-12. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: and the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.

The vital question is not, “How were we born?”: or “What rites and ceremonies have been practiced upon us?” but, “Do we believe in God? Have we true faith in God’s Word? Are we trusting our souls to the keeping of God’s Son?”

Romans 4:13. For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.

The law was promulgated on mount Sinai four hundred years after the covenant of grace was made with Abraham the father of believers, and so made with all believers, for they are his true seed, and God has entered into a covenant of grace and salvation with them.

Romans 4:14-15. For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.

So that the law is not for justification, but for condemnation. It is the law that reveals sin, and that shows sin to be sin; so men can never become right with God by the law.

Romans 4:16. Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed;

That is, to all believers, who are the true seed of Abraham. He is the father of the faithful, and if thou art one of the faithful, he is thy father; and the covenant which God made with Abraham and his seed was made with thee, and on thy account, if thou art indeed a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 4:16-22. Not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all, (as it is written. I have made thee a father of many nations, before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were. Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb: He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness..

O soul, if thou art like one who is dead, if thou art devoid of all strength, and grace, and savor, if thou canst but believe in God who can quicken the dead, if thou wilt but trust thy soul in the hands of him who is able even to raise dry bones out of their graves, and make them live, thy faith shall be imputed unto thee for righteousness! Thy faith is that which shall justify thee in the sight of God, and thou shalt be “accepted in the Beloved.” Oh, what marvels faith works! This is the root-grace, all manner of good things spring from faith, but there must be faith as the root if there are to be other graces as the fruit. Do thy God the honour to believe him,-to believe that he cannot lie,-to believe that he has never promised what he is not able to perform. If thou wilt do that, it is clear that thou art one of Abraham’s seed, and the covenant made with Abraham was made with thee also.

Romans 4:23-25. Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.

See the great object of saving faith,-Christ, once dead, has been raised from the dead, and if thou wouldst be saved, thou must rely upon the crucified and risen Saviour. If thou thus believest that Jesus the crucified is the Christ of God, the anointed Messiah and Redeemer, thou provest that thou art born of God; and if thou trustest thyself to the risen and glorified Christ, thou hast risen in him, and thou shalt rise to be with him for ever and ever.

This exposition consisted of readings from Romans 4, and Romans 5:1-2.


Verses 16-25

Romans 4:16. Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed, not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,

Abraham is the father of all who believe, whether they be circumcised or not; and the promises made to him belong to them also.

Romans 4:17-18. (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were. Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be.

He was an old man, with a very aged wife, yet the Lord promised that he should be “the father of many nations.” He firmly believed that which was spoken, and in due time it came to pass.

Romans 4:19-21. And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb: he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.

That is the kind of faith we want, the faith that does not enquire how God can perform his promise, but believes that he will do it.

Romans 4:22-23. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him

The imputation would be enough for Abraham without any writing; but as it is written, it is for our instruction, and for our comfort.

Romans 4:24-25. But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.

May the Lord bless to us our meditation upon this precious portion of his Word!

This exposition consisted of readings from Romans 3, and Romans 4:16-25.

 


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Bibliography Information
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Romans 4:4". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/spe/romans-4.html. 2011.

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Sunday, December 15th, 2019
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